Why Stone Soup is a Key Ingredient in Sustaining Future Prosperity for Naperville

Perhaps it’s the fresh crisp Autumn air of Salt Lake City, but my business trip to Utah’s famous urban outpost has me thinking allot about how our community can navigate an even more prosperous future.  How will we manage our success?  How will we respond to adversity?  How will we foster community and economic growth?  

As I slowly walked back to my hotel this evening, after an ironically excellent seafood dinner at Market Street Grill here in downtown Salt Lake City, the legendary childhood tale of Stone Soup came to mind as I further contemplated future scenarios, both good and bad, for our community.

To summarize the tale, Stone Soup is essentially about hungry travelers who come across a small village and decide to take a rest.  With little food to eat, they light a fire and place a pot full of water upon the flames and drop in a single stone.  Curious villagers eventually approach the travelers to determine what’s going on.  The travelers explain they’re making stone soup.  Upon learning of the bland recipe, one-by-one the villagers bring ingredients ranging from potatoes and carrots to salt and pepper.  Eventually, a hearty stew emerges as a result of the cooperative efforts of villagers working together in collaboration with the travelers.  Everyone dined together and the villagers learned that no matter how difficult times got, they knew how to come together to make stone soup.

To me, Stone Soup provides a vital moral for community growth as there are no singular points of origin for the many ingredients which must be assembled to manage growth and elevate prosperity.  It’s more like effective supply-chain economics or what one might call integrated community development.  Success requires the coordinated efforts of many local and non-local stakeholders who possess the key ingredients which can be contributed towards the recipe for achieving and, more importantly, sustaining community prosperity.  

Had the travelers been left alone to their stone soup, they may have ultimately starved.  As for the villagers, if they had not been united to work together, they would never have enjoyed the delicious stew nor would they have realized the powerful value of cooperation.

How does one apply the value of cooperation to Naperville you ask?  The answer resides in understanding the vital, yet not always obvious, inter-relationship between vital community assets/stakeholders.  The degree to which key community stakeholders are able to join together in pursuit and promotion of mutually beneficial community goals will determine ultimate success or failure. 

For example, the business community depends on a high quality system of education to cultivate a highly-skilled workforce which is a key component to a sustaining economic environment which also depends upon a strong tax base to ensure ample funds are available to be appropriated by governmental bodies for transportation and infrastructure which enables civic organizations both the audience and resources to stage events which spur residential and visitor participation in commerce which feeds back into the business community. 

It’s not whether the “chicken comes before the egg”, but rather the chicken working in cooperation with the egg to coordinate a productive chain-of-events.  Put yet another way, and to borrow from my home state’s motto, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall”. 

The hard part comes in trying to build success upon a foundation of success, as success unfortunately tends to breed complacency and insularity.  Perhaps the ultimate remedy is to get back to the basics of making a new and improved batch of stone soup before the existing stew spoils.  “Hunger” is a tremendous motivational force and as a community we must stay hungry in order to sustain the momentum of our success.

Politics, in all forms, is the art of compromise.  Compromise is a result of setting aside divisive differences and focusing on mutually shared interests.  As we move forward in pursuit of a brighter future for Naperville, we must focus less energy on our differences and realize the power of working cooperatively toward mutually beneficial interests.

Who’s ready to make some stone soup?        


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